Sunday, June 01, 2014

Exploring San Bernardino

San Bernardino is a tranquil little resort town, originally settled by German immigrants, only about an hour outside of Asuncion. We took a day trip here to see what there was to see. Our first stop was a flea market. There wasn't really anything of interest to buy, but it was fun to be surrounded by people speaking German! Then we went down to Lake Ypacarai to watch people and boats come and go. It was a beautiful fall day so we just soaked in the sun! After that we started exploring. One of our Paraguayan friends had mentioned an old, abandoned amphitheater. We are the type of people who think that could make a fun afternoon! After many dirt roads, U-turns, asking locals for directions, we finally found it.

The last concert held here was Ricky Martin in 1994. After that, the amphitheater was closed and basically became completely overrun by jungle. A couple years ago someone decided to clean it up-but since then it seems it's just a place teenagers come to drink, as evidenced by the broken glass EVERYWHERE. But, that didn't stop us from acting out our rock star fantasies, climbing up the catwalk, and even making our own music video. (It. Was. Awesome.) Sunday afternoons in Paraguay tend to be on the dull side, so you have to make your own fun however you can-we had a great afternoon!
One of the simultaneously most frustrating
and hilarious things about Paraguay.
We were on this newly paved,
 4-lane super modern road...and then
 it just dead ended into this tiny
dirt lane driveway to someone's house.
We got a lot of practice asking for directions!

There was a ladder. It was just a question of who'd be first to see what was at the top.

Nice view.
walking back to the car after a satisfying day of exploring

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Independence Day Weekend and Ybycui (2)

After our hike, we moseyed down the road to an iron foundry called "La Rosada." It was used to make weapons for the triple alliance war in the 1860s-and was also destroyed in the same war. Now it has a museum and you can wander around and look at stuff.


This is a common scene in the countryside. There are many cows roaming all over the place.

After all this adventure, we stopped in the small town of Ybycui to stock up on food and drinks, then went back to our hotel and did some more cooking, and leftover heating-uping. Another fun night of eating, games, and drinking led to this:

LEMONS! Now for some reason lemons are not even available in Paraguay anywhere. It's not like they don't grow. In fact, on the hotel property they actually do grow on trees. So at 1 or 2 in the morning, Kristi and I went lemon picking. I'm not sure why it was so fun and hilarious, but the beverage selections of the evening *may* have been a factor. We were so happy about our lemons!

The next morning was our last at the hotel, so we decided to take advantage of some pool time in the sun. The weather was perfect.

I need one of these for my patio. 

On the way back we took some meandering side roads. Our map didn't specify between nice, newly paved roads and muddy, rutted roads. When the former gave way to the latter, we changed our route. At any rate, it was a gorgeous day for a drive in the country.

Our last stop on the way into town was in a little town called Ita. There is a family of yacares (caiman) that just live in the lake and sometimes don't escape their fenced enclosure. WHAT? CAIMAN?!? OK I have a little bit of an alligator/crocidile phobia. But it was still kind of cool. But seriously, someone thought this was a good idea? Seriously? The little baby at the bottom totally could have gotten out under the fence and bitten someone! Anyway, hope you enjoyed this glimpse into what we do on long weekends for fun. :)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Independence Day Weekend and Ybycui (1)

Any time there is a long weekend, there is always the buzz of "where are you going for the weekend?" and "what are your plans?" That is one of the cool things about being surrounded by a group of adventurous, traveling type- a four-day weekend spells ADVENTURE!

Originally we had talked about going camping, but the weather forecast was terrible. Instead, we found a really cute "hotel" with separate cabins/bungalows. (What is the difference anyway?) In two cars, eight of us (6 teachers and 2 visiting friends) set off for our adventure.

The first delay happened almost immediately...we were pulled over. This happens ALL THE TIME in Paraguay, and they don't have to have a reason to pull you over. You're driving along and there are check points, and they just pull over whichever cars they feel like. Normally you show your paperwork and are on your way in under a minute. However, this was the exception. We STILL don't know what happened. Apparently they didn't like that we had a cooler with an (unopened) package of beer in it-although they didn't ask for us to give it up. Maybe they thought our driver had been drinking, but they didn't ask him to take a breathalizer. Maybe they wanted a bribe, but they didn't ask for one. Maybe our skin was just too light-we'll never know. After about 45 minutes, they got sick of our mediocre Spanish and sent us on our way.

I always LOVE when you first get out of the city and the land opens up. It's so pretty!

We got to our cool cabins and got moved in. A couple of us drove into town for provisions for dinner, others started preparing food they'd brought. There was some relaxing and frisbee and plenty of beer and wine too. Eventually we'd cooked up an admirable spread and enjoyed a relaxed dinner outside. All the cabins had a quincho (grill) and big outdoor tables. We were at the very end of the property, no doubt because they knew we'd be rowdy troublemakers. :) 

Of course I didn't take pictures of this, but when I think back on this weekend what I remember is playing games outside after dinner. We played Bananagrams, Catch Phrase, Phase 10.... We stayed up late and laughed until our stomachs hurt and we ran out of wine.

The next day, the weather was a little crummy, making us glad we weren't camping. The hotel had a decent breakfast, we all moseyed over as we woke up. Eventually we decided to head to the park, even though it was raining a bit.

 Once there, we hiked all over the place, and had to cross the river multiple times. We also saw lots of cool waterfalls, and these cool red mushrooms. I tried to see other wildlife but was unsuccessful. Ybycui is one of Paraguay's most popular parks, and is 5000 hectares. We saw Salto Mina, below, and Salto Guarani, below some more.

The Canadians! (and Maggie, honorary Canadian)

Going back, the water was much deeper.
Apparently the rain we'd driven through
had made it's way down the mountains
a bit. But not one of us fell in!

We were standing around eating some snacks when these cows came running by at a fast clip. I was a little worried about being gored, but they just raced on by.

Did you notice all that bug repellent in the top picture? Well I used it, as I'd been warned about the mosquitos this time of year, especially in the park of Ybycui. However, all that wading through streams must have washed it off because I was in bad shape by the end of it! Oh the agony!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Random Leftover Rio Pictures

I have some leftover pictures that I like, but they don't really go with any of my other posts. So, here they are. 

After days of rain, the clouds start to lift. This was my first view of the mountains around Rio!

Beau and I saw tons of these critters in a park. What are they?

There are tons of these mega sandcastles along the Ipanema and Copacabana beaches. Often they want a donation in exchange for a picture.

Drinking water out of a coconut was on my Rio bucket list. Watching the guy hack it open was impressive!

These last two pictures are from the trendy Lapa neighborhood. We went out one night with our new friends Rob and Chrissy. Check out how busy the streets below are-this was at about 4 a.m.! 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Rio part 6: "Sunset Tour" AKA Booze Cruise

One of the nice things about Rio (and a huge change from Paraguay) is that it's a huge tourist destination. Now, on the downside, there are tons of tourists. But on the upside, it's really easy to attend events and outings without having to do all the planning on your own. Plus, some of the said tourists turn out to be awesome people who even speak English to boot!
This is Chrissy. She's awesome.
One of the events we found online and decided to attend was nicely called the "Sunset Boat Cruise." But I have been on this type of thing before-it's all about the drinking, who are they trying to kid? Anyway it was really fun. :) We met these nice people Chrissy and Rob early on in the week, and this was the 3rd time we made an excuse to hang out with them! I'm really glad they came because they have this weird scheme to get everyone drinking and partying. Ladies only can go to the top floor of the boat and have all they want free drinks for the first hour. They can't bring any drinks downstairs and the guys can't come upstairs. This is why it was much better that we were a group of 4. Otherwise Beau and I would have been on separate floors all awkward and not knowing anyone!
After the hour or so, we were allowed to mingle all together. :) There was a bar on the main floor of the boat too. Here we are all together: Dane, Chrissy, me, and Beau.

We enjoyed great views sailing out of the harbor. Here is the city and the Cristo statue on the right.

The sun started to set and the boat anchored. People started changing into swimsuits and jumping into the water! At this point, my camera battery died for the night. Just as well, right? ;) After some swimming, the sun went all the way down and the boat turned into a dance party...cue the DJ and disco ball! Party time. 

We stayed anchored for awhile, then slowly started making our way back to shore. We were having a grand old time and meeting new people. When we got to shore we were STARVING, since none of us had eated before setting out. (We meant to! But had a little trouble finding the boat, and didn't have any extra time to grab a bite beforehand. Anyway, once back on land we continued to hang out, finding a restaurant and checking out Chrissy and Dane's sweet sweet hotel they were staying in. I think I got back to the hotel at about 4 a.m.-enough for about 3 hours of sleep before the taxi to the airport arrived!